5 Ways to Provide Student-Centered Feedback

In his Summer 2023 article “Breaking Out of the House of Corrections,” Craig Sale gave practical advice about how to develop independent learners and motivated students. Here are five tips for providing student-centered feedback from his article. Read the full article at https://pianoinspires.com/article/breaking-out-of-the-house-of-corrections/

1. When working on technique, provide good models and then ask students about the sounds they will be producing.

“Students can have established goals for how their technical work should sound, feel, and look. When the beginning student is presented with a good model, the feedback on their technique can and should become a collaborative effort. If the student has seen and felt what firm fingertips are…, they can be asked to evaluate their own fingers. This is far more meaningful than having the teacher criticize the weak finger joint.”

2. Before giving feedback, ask the student for their thoughts.

“The student may not be as critical as desired; they might be too hard on themselves; or their area of focus may not really be relevant to the problem at hand. Regardless of these things, the teacher must first address their response—it must be valued and respected. Then, the teacher can add their thoughts, perhaps throwing new ideas into the mix.”

3. Provide a model for constructive evaluation.

“Through the feedback they provide, teachers serve as models of constructive evaluation. For example, instead of saying “Your wrist was far too low. Try it again keeping it higher,” the teacher can say “Did you hear some unevenness during the crossings? That unevenness in rhythm and tone is common during crossings. I wonder if the crossings might be less awkward if you try it keeping your wrist more level.”

4. Let the student show you their progress by offering choices.

“One simple way to begin to break out of this predictable, corrective pattern is to offer choices to the student. “Would you like to play the whole piece or start with a specific section?” “Which practice tempo would you like to start with today?” Simply doing this gives the student a participatory role in the lesson and implies that they know something about how their practice is going.”

5. Create an environment that encourages evaluation through teamwork.

“When a problem presents itself, teacher and student should try to find the solution together. The teacher can use questions that offer options for the student. For example—“What happens if you play it without the pedal?” “What happens when you keep your fingers closer to the keys?” “Let’s try some staccato practice. How does it feel now?” In these situations, the teacher serves as a resource for options to try, not a corrective instructor. It cannot be overemphasized that no feedback of any kind will achieve the desired goal if the student does not demonstrate in the lesson that they can successfully pursue the new goal during the next week’s practice.”


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